Esterházy (ĕsˈtĕrhäˌzē) [key], princely Hungarian family. Paul, Fürst Esterházy von Galantha, 1635–1713, was elected palatine (regent) of Hungary in 1681 and distinguished himself in the defense of Vienna (1683) and the reconquest of Hungary from the Ottomans. A staunch supporter of Hapsburg rule, he was created prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1687. His grandson, Paul Anton, Fürst Esterházy von Galantha, d. 1762, appointed Franz Joseph Haydn assistant musical director at his seat at Eisenstadt, now in Austria. Paul Anton's brother, Nikolaus Joseph, Fürst Esterházy von Galantha, 1714–90, who succeeded him in 1762, made Haydn chief musical director in 1766. For Nikolaus Joseph, Haydn composed most of his chamber music, and numerous symphonies and operas for a vastly increased orchestra and a newly established private opera. Nikolaus Joseph, one of the most lavish art patrons of all time and immensely wealthy, built the celebrated Esterházy palace in Eisenstadt, on the southern end of the Neusiedler Lake. At his death he left Haydn a handsome pension. His nephew, Nikolaus, Fürst Esterházy von Galantha, 1765–1833, was offered (1809) the crown of Hungary by Napoleon I but refused it.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.